Please ensure you are sitting down before you read any further. This is going to be a shock.
It comes as Toyota unveils its new and vastly-improved Yaris baby car, with the promise of everything from class-leading safety equipment to a new generation of hybrid drive.
The new Yaris looks nicer, should be smoother in the driving responses, and has had a major lift in cabin quality.
There is also a hybrid model, with which Toyota Australia is certain to increase its following among ‘green-power’ buyers, who have been fawning over, and flocking to, the Corolla and HR-V hybrids in 2020.
But, back to the Yaris. And now we come to the price.
Are you sure you’re sitting down?
To provide some showroom context, the recommended retail price of the outgoing Yaris is AUD$15,390. And the new one?
Still sitting? How does AUD$22,130 sound?
Yes, the baby Yaris, starter car for youngsters buying their first car, is now priced a significant way beyond the AUD$19,990 bottom line that was the Corolla benchmark for a generation. And that’s without considering the on-road costs or the optional CVT automatic gearbox.
That’s an increase of 43.79%!
Now, I’m not sure about you, but I cannot remember the last time any new car - regardless of the amount of new technology, and safety, and higher quality, etc, etc, etc - came to showrooms with a 44% price increase.
Actually, In a world where most consumer products get cheaper with generation changes - think televisions, fridges and even some Apple products - I cannot think of anything with a 44% price increase.
The bottom-line number must also include some degree of exchange rate movement, and I must not forget that Toyota Australia is trumpeting the brand-new, highly-efficient three-cylinder engine in the new Yaris.
The press preview of the fourth-generation Yaris is done through a Zoom conference that includes the car’s chief engineer from Japan, a local technical chief, and Toyota Australia’s marketing boss Sean Hanley - a straight shooter and all-round good bloke.
He talks confidently about the styling and technology and a range line-up that escalates all the way to the ZR Hybrid CVT model at … big swallow here … AUD$32,100, even though none of the Brand experts are able to give us the electric-only range of the hybrid car.
But as the Zoom meeting rolls on we’re hearing more and more about secondhand Toyota prices and support packages.
And then it hits me. Toyota now believes the starter car in their Australian line-up is a secondhand car.
I can still recall the last time a car brand admitted that people could not afford a new car, and that a secondhand car was the best way into their brand. It was the 1990s. And it was Porsche.
The all-new Yaris is certain to be a very nice car, I want to drive it, I want to hear more detail about the safety features, and I’m already thinking it could be worth some sort of support when I sit down to cast my votes for the World Car of the Year award.
But 44%? Now I need to lay down.